Ben Sharrock on Pikadero

Ben Sharrock

Screen Academy Scotland graduate Ben Sharrock’s debut feature film Pikadero has been making waves among critics and audiences since its premiere at San Sebastian International Film Festival in September 2015. Last month the film received the Critic's Choice Award at the Zurich Film Festival, and this weekend the film took the Fipresci and Best International Film awards at this year’s Molodist Film Festival in Kiev. Now Ben and producer Irune Gurtubai are in India for the Mumbai Film Festival where the film will have its Asian premiere. 

We were lucky enough to be able to catch some time with Ben and find out more about the film…

What was the inspiration behind Pikadero?

The idea for the film was really a ‘light bulb’ moment. I had spent a few years between the UK and Basque Country. During my time there I saw how the economic crisis was impacting on young people, particularly graduates entering the job market. I wanted to talk about the crisis mixed with that 'in your twenties' stage when you’re trying to figure out what path to take in life. One day, I came across an article about an app that allows people to search for and rate pikaderos. Pikadero is a Spanish slang word used for public places where people go to have sex. The article mentioned the increasingly popularity of pikaderos in Spain because of the economic crisis. I ended up writing the first draft in a week – twelve subsequent drafts followed over the next months.

Pikadero teaser trailer.

As a director, which filmmakers have influenced you?

One of my main influences has been Palestinian Director Elia Sulieman. I also love Eran Kolirin’s The Band Visit, Roy Andersson, Joanna Hogg, Fernando Eimbcke and Aki Kaurismaki – although while I am constantly compared to him, I hadn’t actually seen any of his films before making Pikadero.

This was your debut feature film, which was funded privately on a low budget. What were the key challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

For me, the major challenge was time. Money gives you time and we didn’t have a lot of it. The story had to be contained to accommodate the budget as did the shot list. I think the key is to set strict rules of what you can and can’t achieve with your budget and then follow them. You have to think big but you also have to be sensible. Irune Gurtubai, the producer, was a good grounding force for this ethos.

Still from Pikadero 

Although the script was written in English, the film was shot entirely in Basque, which you don’t speak fluently. How did this affect your ability to direct the actors?

I surprisingly didn’t feel too inhibited by this. I understand Basque better than I speak it and I managed to learn my entire script in Basque so I could follow and feel the dialogue almost as if it was in English. I also worked very closely with Irune and the actors during both the rehearsal period and shoot. Irune was always on hand to translate and give her opinion on performance if I was unsure about something.

Ben on set

Pikadero won the Critics’ Choice award at the Zurich Film Festival, as well as a nomination for Best International Feature Film. It was also nominated for the New Directors competition at the San Sebastian Film Festival. What has it been like to have such a positive critical reaction to your debut feature?

I know it sounds corny, but it really has been a dream come true. When we set out to make the film, our goal was to premiere in the New Directors Competition in San Sebastian and we thought we were being unrealistic! We didn’t think about awards and we hoped other festivals might be interested but we didn’t expect this. We are suddenly competing in major film festivals all over the world alongside films that make you want to pinch yourself. It has been really special.  

What comes next for you?

At the moment, a lot of travelling with the film which is fun and tiring, but I am also in the very early stages of development with a couple of new films as well. I direct commercials too and I’ve just signed with a really great agent in London so I’m just hoping to push on and make another film!

Find out more about Ben Sharrock on his website

Pikadero received funding through Creative Scotland's targeted film fund.